Taurine is a chemical compound found ubiquitously in the body. It is tentatively being considered for additional categorization as a neurotransmitter since, whilst functioning as an antioxidant, and to make digestive bile acids, regulate fluid balance and mineral retention, it is also a natural sedative by its activation of the GABA-A and glycine receptors (Jia et al., 2008; Zhang & Kim, 2007).
The brain’s GABA system degrades progressively with aging, and taurine markedly improves learning and memory retention in aged mice through its interactions with the GABAergic system (Idrissi, 2008).
Curiously, rats supplemented with taurine for 4 weeks (0.05% of their drinking water) displayed hyperexcitability resulting from GABA downregulation and appeared to have diminished motor learning capacity (Santora et al., 2013). I wonder if the hyperexcitable mice were “megadosed” with taurine to cause such a negative consequence, but I don’t know how 0.05% works out as a dose.
Taurine, along with the amino acid L-arginine, cures cardiac arrhythmias at 10-20 grams per day by virtue of its mineral regulation ability and presumably through a dampening of the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system, and by inhibiting adrenaline release (Eby & Halcomb, 2006).
Taurine prevents epileptic seizures and protects neurons against seizure-induced brain damage (Idrissi et al., 2003). Migraine patients have significantly lower urinary traces of taurine (Rao & Rao, 1988), and the higher plasma taurine correlates with less severe migraines (Martínez et al., 1993). By increasing inhibitory tone in the auditory pathway, taurine supplementation treats tinnitus (Brozoski et al., 2010).
Taurine is synthesized in the body from cysteine, which we get from eating animal foods (which also contain taurine), and vegans are known to have significantly inadequate taurine levels (Laidlaw et al., 1988; Rana & Sanders, 1986).
Damage to the eyes resulting in retinopathy is a cardinal feature of taurine deficiency (Gaucher et al., 2012).
For supplementation, I have always taken the Now Foods brand.
Taurine supplemented at a median dose of 30 grams per day (0.5 g/kg/day) significantly increases physical endurance during exercise (Yatabe et al., 2003)
By elevating testosterone and nitric oxide, taurine is an aphrodisiac (Yang et al., 2013), although its sedative effect should be taken into account in this context.
Brozoski, Thomas J., et al. “The Effect of Supplemental Dietary Taurine on Tinnitus and Auditory Discrimination in an Animal Model.” Hearing Research, vol. 270, no. 1-2, 2010, pp. 71–80., doi:10.1016/j.heares.2010.09.006.
Eby, George, and William W. Halcomb. “Elimination of Cardiac Arrhythmias Using Oral Taurine with l-Arginine with Case Histories: Hypothesis for Nitric Oxide Stabilization of the Sinus Node.” Medical Hypotheses, vol. 67, no. 5, 2006, pp. 1200–1204., doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2006.04.055.
Gaucher, David, et al. “Taurine Deficiency Damages Retinal Neurones: Cone Photoreceptors and Retinal Ganglion Cells.” Amino Acids, vol. 43, no. 5, 2012, pp. 1979–1993., doi:10.1007/s00726-012-1273-3.
Idrissi, Abdeslem El, et al. “Prevention of Epileptic Seizures by Taurine.” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology Taurine 5, 2003, pp. 515–525., doi:10.1007/978-1-4615-0077-3_62.
Idrissi, Abdeslem El. “Taurine Improves Learning and Retention in Aged Mice.” Neuroscience Letters, vol. 436, no. 1, 2008, pp. 19–22., doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2008.02.070.
Jia, F., et al. “Taurine Is a Potent Activator of Extrasynaptic GABAA Receptors in the Thalamus.” Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 28, no. 1, 2008, pp. 106–115., doi:10.1523/jneurosci.3996-07.2008.
Laidlaw, S A, et al. “Plasma and Urine Taurine Levels in Vegans.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 47, no. 4, 1988, pp. 660–663., doi:10.1093/ajcn/47.4.660.
Martinez, F., et al. “Taurine Levels in Plasma and Cerebrospinal Fluid in Migraine Patients.” Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, vol. 33, no. 6, 1993, pp. 324–327., doi:10.1111/j.1526-4610.1993.hed3306324.x.
Rana, Surinder K., and T. A. B. Sanders. “Taurine Concentrations in the Diet, Plasma, Urine and Breast Milk of Vegans Compared with Omnivores.” British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 56, no. 01, 1986, p. 17., doi:10.1079/bjn19860082.
Rao, Anjali, and Suryanarayana Rao. “Urinary Excretion of Taurine in Migraine.” Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, vol. 28, no. 2, 1988, pp. 133–134., doi:10.1111/j.1526-4610.1988.hed2802133.x.
Santora, Allison, et al. “The Effects of Chronic Taurine Supplementation on Motor Learning.” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology Taurine 8, 2013, pp. 177–185., doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-6130-2_15.
Yang, Jiancheng, et al. “Taurine Enhances the Sexual Response and Mating Ability in Aged Male Rats.” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology Taurine 8, 2013, pp. 347–355., doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-6093-0_32.
Yatabe, Yoshihisa, et al. “Effects of Taurine Administration in Rat Skeletal Muscles on Exercise.” Journal of Orthopaedic Science, vol. 8, no. 3, 2003, pp. 415–419., doi:10.1007/s10776-002-0636-1.
Zhang, Cheng Gao, and Sung-Jin Kim. “Taurine Induces Anti-Anxiety by Activating Strychnine-Sensitive Glycine Receptor in Vivo.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, vol. 51, no. 4, 2007, pp. 379–386., doi:10.1159/000107687.